Duterte respects independence of Congress; leaves fate of death penalty to lawmakers

MANILA, -- President Rodrigo Duterte respects the independence of Congress, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar stressed Thursday following accusations that MalacaAang is exerting undue pressure to members of the House of Representatives to support the re-imposition of death penalty in the country.

In a statement, Andanar said that although the revival of death penalty is a campaign promise of President Duterte and one of the priority legislative measures of his administration, "the President respects the independence of Congress as a separate co-equal branch of government."

He also stressed that the President is leaving it up to the collective wisdom of the lawmakers for the enactment of the proposed law.

"President Duterte trusts the wisdom of our lawmakers to see that the enactment of such law would benefit the nation not only by instilling respect for the law among our people but also by ending impunity and ensuring that those who commit heinous crimes are prosecuted to the full extent of the law," Andanar said.

The Presidential Communications Secretary made the statement after a pro-life lawmaker claimed that congressmen are under pressure to pass the proposed bill to reinstate the death penalty because no less than President is advocating for it.

Buhay Party List Rep. Lito Atienza said the move to revive death penalty is an initiative of the Duterte administration and not of Congress, and thus, members of the supermajority at the House are obliged to follow orders.

In the meantime, House leaders have repeatedly denied the allegations.

The proposed bill's co-author, Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro, said there is no pressure from the Palace and that the Justice Committee has yet to submit the bill to plenary.

"In fact, the bill has not yet been certified as urgent by the President," the Capiz lawmaker said.

Earlier, Justice Committee chair Rep. Reynaldo Umali said the proposal to re-impose the death penalty would still be subjected to a long deliberative process.

"It will still undergo a long legislative process. I am certain that what the House will eventually pass will be different from what we have approved in the committee," the Oriental Mindoro lawmaker said.

House Bill No. 1, which was filed by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez was passed by the House Committee on Justice before Christmas and will be sent to the plenary when Congress resumes sessions next week.

Under the substitute bill, the following crimes will now be punishable by death: treason; qualified piracy; qualified bribery; parricide; murder; rape; kidnapping and serious illegal detention; robbery with violence; destructive arson; plunder.

Other crimes also to be deemed punishable by death are: importation, selling, and manufacturing of illegal drugs; maintenance of a drug den; possession of illegal drugs; cultivation of plants classified as dangerous drugs; unlawful prescription of dangerous drugs; criminal liability of public officer for misappropriation, misapplication, or failure to account for the confiscated, seized or surrendered drugs; criminal liability for planting evidence; and carjacking.

The bill must pass the House and the Senate before it can be signed into law by the President. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency

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